Watford 2 Nottingham Forest 0 (22/12/2012) 23/12/2012Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
Five festive thunks from a damp Vicarage Road…
1- It wasn’t necessarily going to end up this way. Virtually the first opening of the game saw Danny Collins afforded a free header from a set piece, he should have done far more than glance it wide. Joel Ekstrand was asleep as a ball from the right reached Sharp at the far post, he shanked clumsily past the post. Simon Cox snuck in behind a static defence at another set piece… everyone froze in confusion, including Cox who screwed a header back across the face of goal. Hoban and Ekstrand both looked uncomfortable and slightly precarious to the point that we briefly glanced at the bench (and remembered that Neuton was hardly an option to bring on to tighten things up again and rapidly returned our attention to the pitch). That’s not to say that Forest were ever on top of us – for the 90 minutes we were never less than holding our own – but we rode our luck early on, mobile front men Cox and Sharp both looking like causing us problems whenever they received the ball to feet.
2- And thus the defining characteristic of the game, our utter dominance of midfield, was significant at both ends of the pitch. Hogg was busy and aggressive, Chalobah enjoyed a fabulous first half that echoed his best performances earlier in the season, Cassetti and Pudil were tremendous, hugging the touchlines even before Forest were reduced in number by Ayala’s stupid challenge on Deeney. And Abdi was utterly magnificent; back in the groove after his return to fitness last weekend, he set up both goals (shovelling the attack for the second straight down the hole that Ayala had just vacated), finished a marvellous second half move exquisitely only to be denied by an offside flag and was irrepressible for a good hour before flagging late on. Such were his exploits that an otherwise sleepy Rookery offered two novel chants in tribute, the Proclaimers’ “500 miles” adaptation competing with a “2 Unlimited” tribute (the former a clear winner for those of any taste and discretion, all it needed was a terrace to jump around on). Forest’s three man midfield were overrun in the first half, ultimately denying their strikers of the service that had been causing us problems. We were well on top and worth the two-goal half time lead.
3- The second half has to go down as a bit of a disappointment, much as Forest were kept at arms’ length until a late but impotent flurry that yielded their first shots on target of any note. The game was over at the sending off of course… as we’ve suggested before this really isn’t a Watford side to fall a man behind to. And we stretched Forest, made them run, could have extended our lead – Abdi’s disallowed goal, the questionable booking of Beleck when he appeared to be fouled on his way into the area. And yet Forest were never put to the sword as they might have been. A stiffer resistance on their part contributed, a desire to limit damage, but ultimately this was a post-Huddersfield, pre-Leeds sort of performance from Watford, excellence for half the game not sustained throughout. To make beating an above-average Championship side look routine in the circumstances no mean achievement.
4- Forest’s stiffer resistance, then. Stiff resistance in a sort of putting-the-boot-in, let-them-know-you’re-about, lets-see-you-shimmy-your-way-round-this-sonny sense. It appeared to be sulky peevishness at first, borne of the impotence of being given the run around with fewer bodies to do the running, but the middle-aged bloke behind me in a rare moment of sobriety pointed out the systematic sharing of hatchet duties between miscreants, brutality by directive, Chalobah, Vydra, Abdi and Beleck all on the receiving end. Igor Stimac, Rio Ferdinand and Stuart Pearce did a similarly transparent job on us for West Ham in the Prem in 2000; unlike that occasion, today’s ref was quick to his pocket. Nonetheless, eighteen months since Billy Davies’ departure Forest haven’t become any more likeable.
5- A decent cameo from Steve Beleck, whose absence from recent consideration in combination with the richness of the alternatives and perhaps injudicious use of social media had caused us to perhaps write him off prematurely. Very effective and yet another species of threat was suggested, another weapon. Powerful like Deeney with a good touch, but a more brutal instrument, his sheer volume suffocating opponents as he competed for high balls. Welcome to the party Steve.
Merry Christmas all. We won’t be at Bristol, you’ll hear from us again after Brighton next weekend.